JACKSONVILLE – Another week, another big-time performance.
That has become Blake Bortles' December storyline, so perhaps it was unsurprising that Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone's thoughts about his quarterback sounded strikingly familiar.
"I thought Blake played well," Marrone said following the Jaguars' 45-7 victory over the Houston Texans at EverBank Field Sunday.
Bortles, the Jaguars' fourth-year quarterback, indeed did just that Sunday. He completed 21 of 29 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions for a career-high passer rating of 143.9.
"He's doing his thing and I'm so proud of him," tight end Marcedes Lewis said.
Bortles remains the NFL's highest-rated passer in December. He has thrown for 907 yards and seven touchdowns with no interceptions during that span.
"Honestly, I just kind of feel like I have been playing the same the whole time," Bortles said Sunday. "Obviously, the results and numbers are a bit better, but I feel just as comfortable and as confident as I did six or seven weeks ago. I think guys are starting to make unbelievable plays."
Bortles in recent weeks indeed has been helped by the continued development of a young group of wide receivers, a group that performed in a big way Sunday following an ankle injury to fourth-year veteran Marqise Lee early in the game.
Rookie Keelan Cole, an undrafted free agent from Kentucky Wesleyan, caught a career-high seven passes for 186 yards and a touchdown. First-year wide receiver Jaydon Mickens, who entered Sunday with one career reception, caught two touchdown passes in the first half Sunday and finished with four receptions for 61 yards.
"He is a great quarterback in my eyes," Cole said of Bortles. "He does everything he needs to and more. He is trying to progress every day and it's good.
When the Jaguars clinched their first postseason berth in a decade Sunday, it was a special moment for several Jaguars veterans. One such player: Lewis, a first-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft and the team's most-tenured veteran. "The magnitude will be different with everybody in this room," Lewis said. "This is exactly where we wanted to be ever since we stepped foot in here in training camp over the summer and the work that we put in. To get to this point right now is huge." The playoff appearance marks the first time in the postseason for veteran linebacker Paul Posluszny, who said he has thought about the playoffs "all year, my entire career, honestly. You felt like at the beginning of the year, we had a special group and we really never said it was our specific goal, but you knew if we followed Coach Marrone's formula, we would have a chance. Just the fact to know we are in the playoffs is an awesome feeling."
Marrone said he had a moment of worry before Sunday's game. Why? Because the Jaguars' locker room before the game was as quiet as it had been before a game all season. "I was thinking to myself, 'This team has always been focused and loose' and I'm thinking to myself, 'I hope these guys aren't getting tight now,''' Marrone said. He needn't have worried. With a chance to clinch the franchise's first playoff appearance in a decade, the Jaguars took a 31-0 halftime lead, the largest halftime lead in franchise history. "Obviously they were focused and that was a good sign," Marrone said.
"I'm telling you: when we're firing on all cylinders, there's no team in the NFL that can mess with us. There's no team in the game of football that can play with us. We continue to play for each other and with each other."
--Jaguars LB Telvin Smith
Images form the Jaguars Week 15 matchup with the Houston Texans.
"We want to stop offenses. Our offense went out there and scored seven points; that's all we needed and that's how we feel. Nobody can drive on us. Nobody can get in the red zone on us and score. We feel that way and that's what the stats say. That is what we'll go out there and continue to have."
--Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson
"Obviously, I think everybody knows the history of the organization to be able to say that we were a part of the group that kind of changed the culture and changed the narrative about the Jaguars is special. I think it's a never-ending battle. You do it one week or you do it for a couple weeks or for one season. It's something we have to find a way to make consistent on a weekly basis and on a yearly basis."
"It's been a long time coming. To be a part of this group of guys, it's going to be fun. These are few and far between. Now, after seven years, to finally be able to hear, 'We're in the thing …' it's still seems so surreal."
--Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus on his first career playoff appearance in seven seasons
"I know that I'm always trying to win games and push teams and push everyone to be better so that we can make the people of Jacksonville and the region proud of this football team. That's always been what I've tried to do."